An orphan boy is swept up in an adventure with magic and pirates.
Bert Rumsey is teased for his interest in adventure and magic by other children in the boarding school where a mysterious man in a cloak left him as a small child. A school visit to a museum devoted to a kind of revisionist history—meant to affirm the government of Penvellyn’s position that magic never really existed—sets off a chain of events that has Bert fleeing for his life, beset by a wound that connects him to both a magical power and a magical spirit. Professor Roberts, a former explorer–turned-pirate, and his daughter, Finch, help Bert to escape the clutches of Prince Voss, whose hunger for power has taken him into a dark, forbidden study of magic. Debut author Winter moves the characters somewhat breathlessly from one dramatic moment to the next while carefully reserving a few surprises about Bert’s relationships that add poignancy and depth to the narrative as they are revealed. Cinematic action scenes include a fight atop a train being lifted by cables up a mountain and a battle between airships along with some swordplay and hand-to-hand combat. A reanimated army of creepy skeletons in the shell of a wrecked airship ups the spooky element. The book seems to subscribe to the white default.
A quick and absorbing combination of swashbuckling, steampunk, and supernatural mystery. (Fantasy. 9-12)